Kings beat Sharks 4-0
SAN JOSE -- Terry Murray called it a ``moon shot.'' In basketball, they might call it an alley-oop dunk. In football, it would be more like a well-executed 40-yard post route.
Really, though, it defied words and it served as the perfect capper to a game the Kings would like to bottle and duplicate as often as possible. Late in the third period, Anze Kopitar
lifted a pass that traveled approximately 80 feet in the air. The puck landed, perfectly, in front of Dustin Brown
, who then skated in and scored on a wrist shot.
It was Brown's second goal -- and the Kings' fourth goal -- of the third period, and it tied a nice ribbon around the Kings' 4-0 victory over San Jose on Monday night at HP Pavilion.
``You wonder if it's going to be an offsides,'' Murray said of Kopitar's pass. ``I've only seen that play connect one time before, ever. It was a pretty creative move and, really, just to release pressure it's the right kind of look to make, too. Get it over the top, the old moon shot, and then you just hope that maybe something happens off of it.''
It did, as the Kings won their fourth consecutive game, broke the Sharks' four-game winning streak, closed to within one point of first-place Dallas in the Pacific Division and removed the bad taste of their ugly three-goal loss in the same arena last month.
and Marco Sturm
also scored third-period goals, and Kopitar had three assists as the Kings broke open a game that was scoreless heading into the final period. Jonathan Quick
made 24 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and his third shutout in his last six starts.
``I can't really say enough about the way the team played,'' Quick said. ``San Jose is one of the top teams in the league, and really we brought our `A' game. We played well, and we didn't give them much defensively and we scored some big goals.
``(Sharks goalie Antti) Niemi played really well for them and kept them in there for two periods, but we did a good job of not getting frustrated and sticking to what we were doing right, and we got the bounces in the third there.''
The Kings recorded a season-high 37 shots on goal and held the Sharks to 24, and for two periods, the Kings did everything but huff, puff and blow the Sharks' house down. They shot, shot and shot more, but couldn't put anything past Niemi. At one point late in the first period, the shot clock read 15-1 in the Kings' favor.
Then, as if to display how absurd hockey can be at times, the Kings scored on the first two shots of the third period, on plays that started out looking relatively harmless. The Kings had wobbled a bit in the second period, but dominated the final 20 minutes.
``The start was huge for us, and I think we kind of snowballed it throughout the game,'' Brown said. ``It goes a long way when you have four lines playing really well. The last stretch of games here, we've been playing really good, from our first line to our fourth line and from our first defenseman to our sixth. And obviously we're getting the same goaltending every night, with Quickie and Bernie [Jonathan Bernier
Coming into the game, this certainly wouldn't have been the most likely result. The Kings played Anaheim at home on Sunday night, then flew to San Jose to face the Sharks, who were coming off three days of rest and riding a four-game winning streak.
Then, of course, there were the memories of Nov. 15 when the Kings, riding a six-game winning streak, came into San Jose and essentially got punched in the mouth in a 6-3 loss. That game was the start of a 1-7-0 skid that haunted the Kings in late November.
From the opening faceoff Monday, though, it seemed clear that things would be different. Believing the Sharks might be a bit rusty after their layoff, the Kings wanted to pounce early, and they did, with a handful of excellent scoring chances in the first 10 minutes.
Niemi was forced to make several point-blank saves in the first period, and otherwise would have allowed three or four goals on quality chances. A flurry of offense at the end of the period got the Sharks going, but they were outshot 16-6 in the first period.
San Jose started the second period on the power play, and it seemed to get the Sharks going. Play evened, and was tense with a lot of tight checking. Quick was at his best in the second period. The Kings still outshot the Sharks 14-8 but the score stayed at 0-0.
``Frustrating? I think it was, a little bit,'' Kopitar said. ``We had some good chances, but in that case, you just can't get too down. It is what it is. He's a world-class goalie. He won the Stanley Cup last year, so obviously he's a great goalie, but you just have to keep on doing the things we were doing. We cracked him at the end, and we took two points.''
Then, early in the third period, the breakthrough came, not as a result of any flashy play but because of Brad Richardson
's tenacity in the offensive zone.
Richardson got knocked down by two Sharks deep in the offensive zone, but got up, won the puck and fed it to Lewis, who scored from the slot at the 2:08 mark. On the Kings' next shot, 1:18 later, Sturm's knuckleball shot beat Niemi. At the 6:49 mark, Brown scored his first goal, which was the back-breaker. The circus goal came with 2:00 remaining.
``We've actually tried that, in similar situations,'' Brown said. ``You probably don't realize it because it has never connected like that. Either I'm thinking he's going to do it too early, and I'm going too fast, or he flips it on a second too late and it ends up being an icing. Tonight we both were on the same page with that flip, and he put it right there.''
Throughout the 60 minutes, Quick was sharp, but other than their second-period wobble, he also received good support from defensemen and faced little sustained pressure.
``We had a lot of great chances in the first and second, but nothing was going in,'' Richardson said. ``We stuck with it, and that's always a good thing. Sometimes that can go the other way, where you get a lot of chances and they end up scoring, but Quickie was great, and obviously we got that first one in and kind of went from there.''
The Kings won without forward Alexei Ponikarovsky
, who is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but the Kings got three goals from their first line and a rare, welcomed goal from the fourth-line duo of Richardson and Lewis.
Sturm, in his fourth game with the Kings and his second as a member of the first line, got his first goal of the season, against the team that drafted him 14 years ago.
``It's great for him,'' Murray said of Sturm. ``I thought he had a real good game. His contribution was there for the 60 minutes. He scored the goal. He made a good play on Brown's other goal. Doughty shot the puck and he's right there in front of the net, screening the goaltender. He's in the right place. He moved the puck very well here tonight. So it looks like he's starting to get his feet under himself again.''
With his two goals, Brown has now scored a team-high 16 goals this season, and Kopitar pushed his team-highs to 23 assists and 38 points in 35 games. Brown now has seven goals and nine assists in his last nine games, including seven multi-point games. Kopitar has seven goals and 10 assists in 12 games in December.
For a while, though, it looked like it would be a night of frustration for all the Kings, until Richardson and Lewis broke through early in the third period to break the scoreless tie.
``It's just staying positive,'' Brown said, ``and knowing we're playing a really good game on the road against a really good team. We just stuck with it, and in the third period it paid off.''
The first goal of the game finally arrived 2:08 into the third period. Richardson tried to play the puck in the corner but got crunched by two San Jose defenders. As a third Shark skated in and attempted to play the puck, Richardson recovered and centered a pass to Lewis, who scored on a wrist shot from the slot.
``It worked out good,'' Richardson said. ``Obviously you don't want to get hit like that. [laughs] It's never fun, but that one just kind of worked out really well. It just kind of stayed in my feet, and I got up and Lewie was wide open. He did a great job.''
After having chance after chance turned away for two periods, the Kings scored on their first two shots of the third period. This time, Sturm got his first goal with the Kings at the 3:19 mark. Kopitar carried the puck into the Sharks' zone and passed left to Sturm. Sturm took a shot that wobbled and beat Niemi five-hole to give the Kings a 2-0 lead. Matt Greene
also got an assist.
The Kings scored their third goal of the period at the 6:49 mark. Drew Doughty
took a point shot and Niemi made a pad save, but the rebound kicked hard to the right. Brown crashed the net, beat San Jose's Dany Heatley to the puck and knocked it in to give the Kings a 3-0 lead. Kopitar also got an assist.
The Kings saved their best goal for last, as Brown scored his second goal of the game in a 4-on-4 situation with two minutes remaining. Kopitar picked up his third assist of the game when he flipped the puck at least 80 feet in the air and onto the stick of Brown, who skated in and scored on a backhand shot to give the Kings a 4-0 lead. Jack Johnson
also picked up an assist.
``We played with an attitude, all through the 60 minutes,'' Murray said. ``I loved our start. We had great offensive-zone time. We had lots of pucks to the net. We had a shot mentality and recovered a lot of pucks. The second period, we fell off it a little bit.
``We had a big (penalty) kill at the start of the second period. I thought we fell off our game a little, with skating and just doing the right things. Or doing the same things, I guess, that we were doing in the first. But we got it back, and then in the third period, you just keep going with it and you're hoping something breaks, something gives. And it does, and you go from there.''
The Kings swept back-to-back games for the first time this season. This win allowed the Kings to improve to 9-2-1 in their last 12 games and allowed them to maintain their hold on fourth place in the Western Conference heading into Wednesday's game at Phoenix.
``We played well here tonight,'' Quick said, ``but it's a very competitive conference and every point is going to matter at the end of the season. It's going to take 98, 99 points, possibly, just to get into the playoffs, so those games in hand, they don't mean anything unless we win the games. So we're going to continue with this momentum, bring it to Phoenix and hopefully get two points there.''
|Three star selections